Like a California brush fire, city ordinances regulating big box retail stores are jumping from city to city as more and more communities come to grips with regulating the scale of huge retailers. The latest flare up is in San Francisco, California, where the city’s Land Use Committee has voted to prohibit stores larger than 120,000 s.f. from being built anywhere but downtown, and ban all stores of that size that would sell a significant volume of nontaxable items, such as groceries. Retailers seeking approval for stores larger than 50,000 s.f. would have to get a conditional use permit, which gives regulators more control over the outcome. The ordinance was cosponsored by Board of Supervisors members Tom Ammiano and Matt Gonzalez.
Wal-Mart has vowed to challenge all such ordinances. The size limit is tough to challenge in court, since limiting size is a legitimate role of zoning. But the restrictions on interior square footage is being challenged by Wal-Mart in several other California cities. For similar stories, search this database by “California.”